HERDMAN: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Senator Daisy Thaler who served from 1973-1977. The interview was conducted by Catherine Herdman for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project, on July 28, 2006, in the home of Mrs. Thaler, in Louisville, Kentucky. Good morning Miss Thaler.

THALER: Good morning.

HERDMAN: Let's start with your parents and family background. When and where were you born? And tell me about your parents.

THALER: I was born in Bullitt County, Kentucky, out of Zoneton (??) area, and my mother was Margaret Miller. My father was Ernest Rogers Wigginton. They were married in 1927. I was born in 1934. My father 1:00was a, he was a farmer. And then my mother was a teacher, but at the time, when you got married, you had to stop teaching. Of course, then she had children. There were, I have four brothers, no sisters.

HERDMAN: Where did you fall in the birth order?

THALER: I was, I am the next to the baby. And my paternal grandfather was a county judge in Bullitt County when I was just a little, little child. He also was a farmer. My maternal grandfather was a merchant at a grocery store, general store. I always loved to go to Grandpa's store. I would call him Papaw. Because many things went on there, lots of talk. So, and I liked to go out there, and, of course, when they had the general elections, they always voted at Papaw's store. 2:00My mother even worked in the polls, most of the time. Just a little bit of the history, there were on both sides on the family. On the Miller side, we had cousins, my mother's first cousin served in the legislature. Then ----------(??) Hill, another cousin on that side, served as a, in Washington in the legislature in the House. On my grandfather Wigginton side, his nephew was, served on the Supreme Court. He was nominated by President Roosevelt, Wiley B. Rutledge. And his 3:00mother Margaret Wigginton Rutledge was my grandfather's sister.

HERDMAN: Okay, so you definitely came from a political family.

THALER: I afraid I did. (both laugh)

HERDMAN: What do you remember about the elections that were held at your grandfather's store? Would you consider them fair by today's standards?

THALER: Well, I would, I would think so. Now they had paper ballots. And there was a box there, and the people would come in, and they would mark the little ballots, fold them up, you know, someone stood there and watched them put them in. I'm going to say, you know, that maybe, I really don't know. It's just that this is what I observed. When they came in the door you know, they put their name down, and somebody checked it off. And then they made it and put it in the box. Then the box had to be guarded until it was taken to Shepherdsville.

HERDMAN: And that's where the votes were counted?

THALER: And that's where the votes were counted. That's right. My 4:00grandfather had that grocery out there for about sixty some years so.

HERDMAN: And what was the town in Bullitt County?

THALER: Well, it was near Zoneton (??). It's not really a town, but years ago, they did have a post office there because we fell heir to that post office as a desk. My father used it as a desk really. That was the general area, Zoneton (??) area, and the Hebron area.

HERDMAN: What do you remember about any games, or recreation growing up, or religion? What generally filled your time?

THALER: Well, actually I was a Baptist and went to Little Flock Baptist Church. And, of course, I would say many of those activities did. Of course, in school we had activities. We did used to square dance and we used to roller skate. They had an old, well, what was it a Hebron school once upon a time. My father went there when he was little. 5:00They had a wooden floor that we could roller skate in that, and so, they made more or less a roller rink out of it. So, we roller-skated. My brothers and I, of course, we had the old swimming hole down in the creek. To this day, I still have a tough time putting my head in the water because they held me underwater a little bit, you know, being boys, being boys what they were. We played basket, not basket, but we played baseball or softball. And of course, we did it in the fields, and you know what we used for our bases--dried things. So, we did play a lot of baseball and softball.

HERDMAN: So, with your dad having--no, it was your grandfather that had the store.


HERDMAN: So your parents, what kind of house did you live in with your parents? Was it separated from other kids, or was it in a neighborhood, or?

THALER: Well, it was just, you know, it was by itself. I mean everybody 6:00had like, well, there were acres, you know, where the farm was.


THALER: It was by itself. Then the house where I was born and grew up it was a smaller house that sat alone by itself. Then, of course, we would go to Grandpa Wigginton's house, which is another large house, you know, two-story house, but we would go visit. Of course, my grandmother and grandfather Miller, they didn't have much they had a little yard. But their house, well, they had two stores. One, the house was at on Zoneton (??) road, and it was at the bottom of the hill. And the big two-story house set up on the hill. So you could go down the hill. My grandmother would call my grandfather. She'd call him, "Nick, oh Nick," and, of course, nearby was a blacksmith's shop. 7:00That was wonderful to go watch Mr. Shirley hit the anvil, but they also had a parrot. The parrot could certainly mimic my grandmother--we called her Pal. Many times Papaw would come on the porch, but it was the parrot that was calling him not my grandmother. So, it was just lots of wonderful little memories.

HERDMAN: When did you leave that area, or did-- I guess I should ask, what happened next after you graduated high school?

THALER: When I graduated from Shepherdsville High School, which there is no more Shepherdsville, I went off to college. I went to Western Kentucky.

HERDMAN: Let me back up a little bit. How many kids were in the elementary school you went to?

THALER: I would say maybe a hundred. We had two first grade classes, 8:00and maybe there were maybe twenty, so maybe it was forty. Well, forty times eight would make it three-twenty, wouldn't it? Forty times eight would make it three-twenty, maybe for the whole first through the eighth grade, we'll say.


THALER: In high school, there were, when I graduated from Shepherdsville High School in '52, there were thirty-eight of us in our class.

HERDMAN: And you said the school is no more?


HERDMAN: They consolidated it, or whatever?

THALER: Well, they made it, oh, there's Bullitt East, Bullitt North, Bullitt Central, this and that. So I mean the whole area has grown.

HERDMAN: It's been reorganized.

THALER: Can you imagine all those years ago?

HERDMAN: Yup, and what did you do in high school? Did you have sports teams, or?

THALER: Yes, I played in the band.


THALER: I played the clarinet. Oh yes, and, of course, there was basketball, and we had girls basketball we played. We had the glee 9:00club and we sang in the chorus. As a matter of fact, we had our first high school reunion in 2006, the first one we ever had, and it was done May 20, 2006. Some people we had not seen in fifty-four years.

HERDMAN: Wow. And you went to the high school reunion?

THALER: Oh yes, yes, and we had to at Shepherdsville the little place called Pear Cat (??) Springs Conference Center.


THALER: And right off of I-65. We were delighted because there were eleven people that were dead, six people weren't there, but the rest of us were.

HERDMAN: Out of thirty-eight, Wow.

THALER: Isn't that wonderful?

HERDMAN: Yes, that's very impressive. So you went to Western Kentucky immediately after high school.


HERDMAN: Which was how far from home for you?

THALER: Well, it was about, it was about two hundred miles.

HERDMAN: Did you live, so you lived at Western?


THALER: And I lived at Western in the dorm. Yes, and went to, well, I went like three and a half years because I went one summer and I graduated, well, I graduated in '56.


THALER: So, I'm sorry I got my dates wrong. It was June tenth that we had our high school reunion. It was May nineteenth and twentieth that I went to Western for my fiftieth reunion.

HERDMAN: So, was it typical for the other women you graduated with and did they go onto college for the most part?

THALER: One other girl, Ann Williams and I, we started first grade together, we roomed together in college, and we graduated together. I was in her wedding and she was in mine. But that's the only one that went away to school. There was Joy ----------(??) she left early though. And she went, I think, to University of Louisville, but then 11:00she moved away.

HERDMAN: And what did you study at Western?

THALER: Elementary education, a teacher. My mother had gone to Western, and her sister Marlene, she also went to Western.

HERDMAN: In the same kind of program?

THALER: Oh yes, all were teachers, and even my father's sister, they also went. Two of those went to Western.

HERDMAN: Okay. And you were there for four years?

THALER: Well, yes, um-hm. I really finished up in December of '55 and started teaching in January of '56. And taught third grade at Camp Taylor School. Then after that, I went back, started on my master's right away that summer, and kept going. Between that and the University of Louisville ended up with my masters from the University of Louisville.

HERDMAN: Okay, in what year was that, that you finished the degree?

THALER: That was in '62. Course I married in '59.


HERDMAN: Okay, let's talk about that. Who'd you marry? Tell me a little bit about his family and how you met.

THALER: Well, his name is James Donald Thaler. He was born actually in Barto (??) Kentucky. His father had had coalmines and movie theaters but during the Depression--he was born in '29--and so, when he, they lost these things then, but then he was like the superintendent of mine, his father was. But the mother sent all the children away to boarding school when they were young, so they would get a real education. His older brother graduated from the University of Kentucky as a mining engineer. His two sisters both graduated; they went away to boarding school for high school, too. They both graduated and were schoolteachers. One taught music particularly, and she could play 13:00every instrument in the band down in Knoxville, Tennessee. And Evelyn lived up here in Louisville, and she taught school. And James Donald, he went away to boarding school, but he was ten years younger than the next person. So, like he says, he was a little bit extra special because he was so young, different, difference in the age.

HERDMAN: So he went to boarding school.

THALER: So he went to high school boarding school and he went to Arkansas. He also went to Saint Joe Prep. And they were Catholic. And then he went to Xavier University, and graduated, and as a chemical engineer out of University of Detroit. And he became a chemical engineer. And, of course, right after he graduated, then he 14:00served over in Korea. Down on the mountaintops as a lieutenant.

HERDMAN: Did he enlist? Or was he drafted?

THALER: No, no. He took ROTC in college. So, when he went in, he went in as a second lieutenant came out as a first lieutenant. But he did communications in the Air Force out on the mountaintops. So they were on the relay stations, keeping everything clear for everybody, the pilots, et cetera, and other people.

HERDMAN: And how long was he in?

THALER: And he was in there, well, for two years, and then he was in reserve for the rest of the time, but not in active reserve.


THALER: In the end. I met him because his sister taught school and I was teaching school. I won't tell you the whole story, but to make a long story short--

HERDMAN:--tell us as much as you want of it, that's why we're doing it.

THALER: (laughs) Well, his sister had told me, you know, that she had 15:00her brother that she liked for me to meet, but he was traveling between New York and back here in Louisville because they had a plant. They designed the plants, they build the plants, and then they have to produce the products, whether its phosphorus or whatever it might be. So, he was traveling between those two plants a lot of the time. So, at that time I really was unavailable.

HERDMAN: You were dating someone else?

THALER: Yes I was. So I said that just, you know, that sometime when he is around, give me a call. So on a Friday night, she called and she said, "My brother's in town and he needs someone to play bridge." I said, "Well, I was supposed to help paint the living room and the dining room at home," cause after you graduated college, you went back home and lived at home and taught school.


HERDMAN: Until you got married?

THALER: Until you got married or whatever happened. So, in those days so we did that. And I said, "But I sure don't want to paint and my brothers are coming to paint." I said, "Now I never really played bridge, but I watched them play when I was in college. And I said, "Sure, I'd love to go," so he got on the phone, and, of course, this meant he had to take about a six-mile drive out to Bullitt County to pick me up.

HERDMAN: You didn't drive?

THALER: Oh, I did, but he would need to have to come pick me up.

HERDMAN: Okay. (both laugh)

THALER: I wasn't quite that liberal at that time.


THALER: So, anyway, he said, "Well, okay." Later he said, "You know, I thought anyone that have enough 'guts' that would go play bridge and doesn't know one card from another, and she's playing bridge with this friend of mine, a lawyer and his wife, you know, who play duplicate 17:00bridge and tournament bridge and myself who done also, must be worth marrying." (Herdman laughs) But anyway, we did fall in love. So, then we married.

HERDMAN: So you got rid of that other guy? And?

THALER: Oh yeah. (Herdman laughs) Well, I had gotten rid of the other guy first. (both laugh) And so, we've been married since Halloween, October thirty-first. And the reason we did that is because I said--he wanted to get married because he was being transferred all the time to different places, going other places, and out of town. And I said, "Well, I guess we could get married at Christmas." And he said, "No, the church won't let us marry at Christmas time." And I said, "Well, Thanksgiving's the only other time I have off." I mean, I was dedicated to my teaching.


THALER: And so, these were little first graders that needed help. And so, he said, "Well, I don't know when I am getting transferred, when 18:00would you ever?" I said, "Well, the first Friday in November we have fifth district meeting. So, I would only have to be away from my children for four days." We married on Saturday, and then we could go back, you know, and then I'd be back after that Friday, that first Friday. Well, it just so happened that that was Halloween. (Herdman laughs) So, we never forgot out anniversary.

HERDMAN: Yeah, absolutely. (laughs) It could be fun, too, costumes and everything.

THALER: Sure, that's right.

HERDMAN: So how long did you teach before you actually got married?

THALER: Well, let's see, I started teaching the end of '55 until this was '59, so it probably about four and a half years then. And then I continued to teach a little bit, and then I started, I wanted to finish my master's. Well, he was sent, the next spring, he was sent to Mexico 19:00City.

HERDMAN: Still in the Reserves, is that?

THALER: No, this was with the job. So he had to go down there to oversee this building of this chemical plant down outside of Mexico City. So I had enrolled myself fulltime to finish my master's knowing that, you know, and I was over half-finished before we were married. So I wanted to make sure I finished. So, to make a long story short, I was enrolled in school, so I didn't go with him. But between semesters, I did go down there.

HERDMAN: Into Mexico City?

THALER: To Mexico City. Yeah, so I spent.

HERDMAN: What was that like at that age?

THALER: Oh, let's see. I knew no Spanish. We lived, actually, he lived in a hotel, Hotel Reformer. And he was very careful where you ate because you could get Montezuma's revenge very easily.


THALER: Well, the company did have an apartment there, so we stayed in 20:00the apartment. And there was a girl that would come, and she would clean and would take me around, and if I wanted to go to market. So I thought, Well, being the wife that I was, I was going to cook breakfast and get, so we went to the market. And I bought the stuff, naive that I was. To make a long story short, he and I got Montezuma's revenge. So he says, "From now on, we are eating out, all the meals." So we went to the hotel, the main places to eat.

HERDMAN: And what chemical company did he work for at that time?

THALER: Hooker Chemical Company.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Okay, how long did you keep teaching?

THALER: After that?


THALER: Well, after that, then I was pregnant with young Jim.


THALER: So, then he came home then, and they wanted him to take over 21:00South America or that end of it, and he said, "No, we are going to settle in Kentucky, in the states," he says. So really, he just plain told them, he says, "I am quitting this job because I want to go home. Because when my baby is born I want to be there." So we ended up, he came home, and then we filled out applications, and New York was the next place to go. So we moved to New York. And we had Jim and when he was eight weeks old--

HERDMAN:--New York City, or?

THALER: New York City.


THALER: Of course, he had lived up there a couple years himself before that working for a company up there, Shay Chemical Company. But this is Chemico Chemical Construction Company. So, when he was eight weeks old we moved and we had an apartment over in Englewood, New Jersey. And so, we lived up there.

HERDMAN: How long were you up there?


THALER: Well, actually, it was two years, but out of the two years, we would then went to Alabama and rented a furnished house--(laughs)--when we moved down there for six weeks.

HERDMAN: All still with the job?

THALER: Yeah, all still with the same job. In the end, the next place we were supposed to go was New Ross, Ireland, or the Philippines. So he said, "I don't think I want to. I am tired of traveling." Course he'd been traveling before were married. So we came back to Louisville because he wanted to start a manufacturer's rep business. So he came back to the manufacturer's rep business in Louisville, and he represented different companies and started his own. And so I said, "I will teach long enough to put the bread on the table," you know. So we did until he could make enough money.

HERDMAN: And then he started his own company?

THALER: So he started his own company, yeah.

HERDMAN: Which is?

THALER: West Thaler Engineering Company.


HERDMAN: Okay and what did they do in general?

THALER: He registered--well, he does stuff. He represented different companies. He would make sales calls, but he was selling. He transferred equipment. He'd exchange the wrong date compressors, silencers, filters, and different types of things, various products that would go onto machinery and all.


THALER: So he stayed in that business until 1998.


THALER: He says, "I am quitting and going to Florida to join you."

HERDMAN: Okay and we'll catch up to that. Let me go back to one thing that we jumped over; his family was Catholic?


HERDMAN: And your family was Baptist?

THALER: That's right.

HERDMAN: Was there any problem with the family?

THALER: No problem. No, because some of my aunts and uncles were both.


THALER: They were Catholic, too. So, it was, there was no, my mother, my brothers.


HERDMAN: Did you ever convert officially?

THALER: I finally did in about 2002.

HERDMAN: Okay, but your son was already grown?

THALER: Oh, yes. He was born; yes, he was.

HERDMAN: Was he raised Catholic?

THALER: He was raised a Catholic. Yes, he was. Yes, he was. As a matter of fact, he was my sponsor when I went into the church down in Saint Petersburg.

HERDMAN: Okay. What made you decide to do that?

THALER: Well, I had been going for forty some odd years to the Catholic Church. (Herdman laughs) And so that's.

ERDMAN: It wasn't much of a jump to go ahead?

THALER: No, no problem, really.

HERDMAN: Okay, let's talk a little bit more about schools and then we'll move on ahead into your career. What was your impression of being a student and especially a female student at Western when you attended? Sounds like most of the people in your same situation were going into teaching. Were there other options?

THALER: Yes. Yes. One of the girls there, she was into physics. But most were teachers, home economics. But again, home economics meaning 25:00that they would go out and teach home economics. The most of them I would say were elementary--or were in the field of teaching. A few might--things were not available, I guess you would want to say, even in the media. There was no area in that at the time. So it was basically teaching. Some would be into the field of physics, maybe then.

HERDMAN: Research scientists that sort of thing?

THALER: Research, that kind of stuff, few girls into it though.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. So you would have been in education in school when Brown v Board of Education was handed down from the Supreme Court desegregating schools. How did that affect you?

THALER: Was that in the sixties?

HERDMAN: That was in '54 that the decision actually came down.

THALER: Well, we--

HERDMAN:--but it took awhile to actually implement it so.


THALER: That's right because--that's true because when I was, I would--I want to say that it must have been 1958 when we had the first negro child that came into our classroom at Filson Elementary.

HERDMAN: And that's where you were teaching at that time.

THALER: That's where I was teaching, yeah.

HERDMAN: What are your memories of that?

THALER: There was a little girl and a little boy.

HERDMAN: Were people upset?

THALER: No, not really because they were people who lived in the neighborhood. And had gone, you know, had lived there and lot of people knew their families. But there were two. There were not a lot in that area. But there were two. And they were little apprehensive when they first came because they were the two that weren't just--Beverly and.


THALER: Bruce, little boy's name was Bruce. And if they had came, 27:00they just sat on my lap, and if they cried, I just held them because, you know, I told them that, you know, "We all had to come to school together, now." And that, you know, this was--and there were a few older children in the school, but there were just not very many in that neighborhood at the time.

HERDMAN: Okay, any particular teachers that stand out or professors that were inspirational to you along the way?

THALER: Oh, of course, I think my first grade teacher. (both laugh) Miss Pauline Wiggins (??).

HERDMAN: You got a good start, huh?

THALER: Yes. I really did. But all my grade school, I have always had good teachers. And I used to be able to name every one of them that I had. But I would think that--even in college, they were good. Of course, Dr. Mary (??) Cole who was outstanding I guess you would say in the field of elementary education. Dr. Willy and a few of 28:00the others, and Dr. Sheryl (??) in the area of biology was quite an inspiration to everybody.


THALER: I did go back to Western again after I finished my master's degree. I went back down there, I started taking, I wanted to go into special reading. So I did take my Rank I, which is thirty hours above a master's as a reading specialist.

HERDMAN: And what is special reading? Like adult education?

THALER: Children, no, children who remedial reading.

HERDMAN: Okay, so like learning disabilities?

THALER: Yes. Well, that plus just helping children who had problems. Trying all different phases to get them tuned in to reading and what reading is about. And once they kind of catch on, it's great. Occasionally, I had these older boys, you know. Well, driving would be coming up. Well, you can't learn to drive if you can't read the 29:00book and pass the test, can you? So I really taught some of those older children how to read the book on how to get the driver's license, the driver's manual, that's right. And that geared them into it. And then we would make little signs with flashcards and things like that with all these words. But they made it! So, it helped. You just, I think a lot of it is that they get behind and they feel so defeated. They really don't care anymore and then they become behavior problems a lot of the time. But I did go back to Western because Dr. Inglebriar (??), such a wonderful person. He had the reading program at Western. So for two summers I went back there. Nineteen seventy, '71, and I 30:00finished in '71 and stayed on campus in the summer and finished up the rest of my. But otherwise, I was taken in by satellite when they would teach out. Come to Louisville and teach some of the classes, but I did finish my Rank I as a reading specialist.

HERDMAN: And you did that while you were pregnant, or that was it later?

THALER: No, it was after. Yeah.

HERDMAN: When was Jim Junior born?

THALER: He was born in '60, '60. Yeah, '60.

HERDMAN: And by that time, your husband had moved back to Louisville and you were settled?

THALER: Well, we were--well, this is all this mad time. He's coming, he's quit, you know, we've come back and now we were moving onto New Jersey.

HERDMAN: I got you. And then you were in New Jersey for?

THALER: We were in New Jersey for two years, yeah.

HERDMAN: Then back to Louisville?

THALER: Yeah, then back to Louisville.

HERDMAN: So you were back in Louisville by what year?

THALER: I suppose we came back here in '63 because we went up there in '61. Jimmy was born in November of '60. And then, so we went up there 31:00when it was '61. So it was probably about '63 when we came back here.

HERDMAN: Okay, and were you, when you came back to Louisville were you teaching?

THALER: Yes, I started back teaching. And Mr.--well, Jim didn't come back. Jim Senior didn't come back until that spring because he had to finish a project he was on. And we lived with my mother and dad until that time. Then we moved into a house that really, he had built it, but we gave it to his mother when we married, so that she would always have a home. So we lived with her a little while before. Then we lived on Lover's Lane in 1966.

HERDMAN: Okay, and that's still where live today right? That's where we are right now.

THALER: On Lover's Lane. (laughs)

HERDMAN: Okay, so between '63 and when you were elected, what events led up to you deciding to run?

THALER: Well, I think that a lot of things because of schooling, because 32:00of children's activities, and the lack of it. And when we got ready to play t-ball and play these things, we didn't have the facilities, a lot of them. So, we paid to have lights put up from the ----------(??) page and all, to put lights on the field, you know, for them to have to play. And then you, there are just so many things that were not being done, not being answered. And we had always played a part, I will say, in the election process. Worked for many judges. Of course, they were nonpolitical, so. But we worked for many judges to help get them elected, and then if there were other people that we knew.

HERDMAN: You worked on campaigns, or?

THALER: We worked on some campaigns, yeah. But mostly liked the judges, particularly. And then, when it was time, you know, I just said, 33:00"Well, you know, I really do not know the man." I did go to Frankfort. We went up there and with the PTA to push for a couple of things. And saw the process, you know, and just seemed like they were sort of nonchalant about things and I am not sure that they contacted their constituents a lot of times. And I thought, Well, the Senate job was coming. And so, I said, "Well, I think I really don't know that man. I know myself and I think I could do some things to better represent the people in this district."

HERDMAN: And the incumbent was a Republican or a Democrat?

THALER: He was a Republican and I'm a Democrat.

HERDMAN: Right, okay.

THALER: So I ran in the primary because there was another fellow that 34:00ran against me. There weren't many ladies up there at all in the Senate. Georgia Davis Powers was the only other one.

HERDMAN: Out of how many senators total?

THALER: Thirty-eight.

HERDMAN: And how did you campaign for the primary? What was your?

THALER: Well, you see in the primary, I was still teaching at the time. And of course, the primary was in May. So, I tried to go around to the different clubs, just introduce myself. And then we had a lot of people who said, 'Well, if you run, we'll help you.'

HERDMAN: You mean like civic clubs?

THALER: Well, yeah, that plus political clubs or whatever, you know. And, so we, the fellow that ran against me in the primary, I think 35:00I had a head start on him. But you see I knew so many people in this general area.

HERDMAN: And what was the district you represented at that?

THALER: This was called the Thirty-Fourth Senate District. This district is no longer here in Jefferson County. It's been moved down into the mountains someplace. But the district itself area wise was probably the largest here in Jefferson County. It started at the Bullitt County line, came at Preston Highway, which is 61, went in as far as beyond Okolona (??). So it touched the Bullitt County, Spencer County, and Shelby County lines. And it started at the line out there, it came all in, and it went in, and it came down, came across into Buechel (??) area. The little areas that it covered would have been: 36:00Okolona, High View, Fern Creek, Buechel (??), Hikes Point, Middletown, Jeffersontown, a portion of Anchorage Area, and all the way to the Shelby County line. And Hershberg was in it; Plainview was in it. So it went up to the Shelbyville road. It went all the way out. So it covered, it's supposed to have been eighty thousand people, but I think it had one hundred and some odd thousand people in it. (laughs)

HERDMAN: Okay. Did you use like mailing campaigns?

THALER: We did do some, yes, but we divided this into areas. And this is for the general. After the primary, I seemed to do okay, but my biggest would have been the primary because it was larger and 37:00basically, it was more Republican. And I believe that Mr. Reichert had been there for about eight, I am sure twelve, maybe fourteen years, and I am not sure something like that. He had been in the House, then went over to the Senate. He had been in the Senate I believe two times, twice. Excuse me.


[Pause in recording.]

THALER: I paid for my own campaign. The only money I took was two hundred dollars, which the UAW gave to every Democratic candidate.


THALER: And so I took it because it was just an automatic thing. But the rest of it I paid for it with my teacher money, so. (laughs)

HERDMAN: What do you think it cost you that first campaign?

THALER: Oh, you know, I cannot remember. I probably at the time could 38:00have told you, maybe $1,500 to $2,000, I can't really remember.


THALER: But we held little rallies, and we divided it, and we had chicken dinners. We got the chicken and my brother would grill them on this big rotisserie. My mother would make potato salad. I would make baked beans, we went across the area, and we had five different areas. So, we had those dinners, and anybody was invited to come that wanted to come; I didn't care what they were, you know. They could ask me questions, tell me things, anything, you know. You always tell the truth. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said. (both laugh) So, you know, I learned that a long time ago in my life, you know. And it's still, and it's really true, and we try to 39:00instill this in young people today. But anyway, we did that and we had so many people who wanted to help us. And my name was Daisy. And so, there were about I'd say seven to eight people we just got together, and they used to say it was like a Madison Avenue campaign, but it really wasn't. It was just little people, you know. So, we decided, well, one thing we do is, "Plant a Daisy in Frankfort." You take your weak point and make it your strong point. Now, I ran not because I was a woman, but I ran though I was a woman, you know. So, I didn't think it made any difference. And having grown up with four boys, nobody could, you know, it was nothing. I didn't think anything about it. Boys, girls, didn't make much difference. The only problem was when you got to Frankfort; they didn't have very many women lavatories. 40:00(both laugh) But anyway, when we planted--we had these dinners, we had these little, we found these little pens, little ballpoint pens about four inches long, I'd say, or three inches long, and on the end of it was a little plastic daisy. So, we would take the daisies off and you would have the pen. At first, we didn't put anything on it. We just had them in these little baskets. And I never shall forget the Derby that year of '73. We went to the Derby, and I stood out, and I had these two girls with me. Both were married. But they had on little yellow and white checked gingham dresses and big hats with daisies all over them. Of course, I had on a hat that had daisies all over it. So 41:00we stood in the garden for Phyllis Knight to interview us. So we stood there probably for an hour. But we got interviewed. And she said, "What's with the daisies?" I said, "In Kentucky the spring is when daises come alive." And I said, "So we're just spreading all of the word about Kentucky and the daisies." You know and so, "And we had these little pens here with daisies on them, if you'd like to have one," you know. And nothing at all about political because if I had that would have been bad for them and it would have been bad for me, too.


THALER: But there was nothing said about it, nothing done about it. We just had daisies. So it was sort of a quiet campaign shall we say; mute, silent. And so, later on we did put on the little pins then, "Plant a Daisy in Frankfort." So we passed those out to everybody. 42:00At the polls, we didn't have signs; we had the daisy spinners that go around, you know, that you put in the ground to sort of keep the moles out and everything else.


THALER: Well, but these spinners, that's all we had at the polls, just a daisy. We did have some big signs near the campaign approaching. So probably in October, we put them up. Big signs, they were yellow signs with black writing, and had my picture at one end, and it just said, "Vote Daisy." Then it said, "Thaler for State Senate," "Thirty-Fourth District, Democrat, Paid for by Daisy Thaler Campaign Committee." Well, so we did spread those all around. So some people when they suddenly say, "Oh, you're 'Vote Daisy.'" And they thought my last name was Daisy. (Herdman laughs) That's all we did was just use Daisy. Everything was Daisy. So and it worked for me. But we also had a lady who painted 43:00some pictures for me. She painted some daisies. She made one plate- -when I say plate, I mean a plate that you can make lithographs off of lithographic plate--one was an ----------(??) daisy, one was an English daisy, and the other would be like a field daisy. And so, what we did with that it gave a little biography on the inside, but I also fixed it so they could cut it out, and then they could frame it if they wanted to, and a lot of people did. And a lot of people--I used to have a purse once upon a time that a lady decoupage for me all the daisies on it, and it seemed to be nice. And then so we mailed one, passed out 44:00some when we went door-to-door, and if you came to vote you got the other daisy. And at that time, you could stand outside the polls fifty feet away, and you could pass out. We had volunteers, and I do mean volunteers: people who asked if they could come and help us. And we covered half a day; the next half a day, the next person came. We had it very well organized, and we had a little office that we rented over in Jeffersontown in a little apartment over there. And well, anyway, it was just fantastic. But we had many, many volunteers. I mean, really lots of volunteers. So and I was so thankful for all of them. And then, they came and I said, "You're the people that will tell me what to do and how to do." So when I got to Frankfort, on Saturday 45:00mornings, we had a breakfast every Saturday morning while the session was going on. Mark O'Brien who was the state representative around here, he and I went different places around here, we advertised, "Come Saturday Morning," and we buy their breakfast, and they'd come, if they wanted to pay for it they could, but we would pick up the tab for it all. And so, we wanted to hear everything they had to say about any bill anything like that at all because I was there to represent the people, not myself; I did not have agendas of my own.

[Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.]

HERDMAN: Okay, so your first trip to Frankfort, where did you end up? Well, just tell me about it.

THALER: Well, anyway, when we got to Frankfort, of course, and then, as I say, when we asked the people to come, you know, and tell us how they 46:00felt about the bills, you know, that were coming in, and if we thought that there were things in committee we should tell them about them, and ask how they would vote on them, what would they like to see changed.

HERDMAN: Were these particular handpicked community leaders or just anybody?

THALER: No, just anybody, and whoever it was want to come. And, you know, like a group of them would come or maybe one person would come to speak for a group. But I wish more people had come. A lot of people did come. I cannot tell you tell you exactly how many came to these breakfasts, but oh, maybe, there's twenty, maybe there was fifty, you know. So it would vary. But a lot of times if they were very vocal about things. They'd come to the house. There were a group all in the front yard. And some, you know, in the back, and I really wasn't home. 47:00My mother and father lived with us at that time. And they, of course, because they were there allowed me to do some things that I wouldn't be able to do. And so they said, "We know she's in there," and my father said, "I am sorry she isn't here; that's her mother that's in here." You know, they could see a woman, you know.

HERDMAN: Did you ever feel any threat, or what was the agenda for those people?

THALER: Well, the agenda at that time was, of course, the busing.


THALER: And, of course, they were, they did not want children to go out of their district and being bused everywhere.

HERDMAN: I'm not too familiar where Louisville fell in that controversy. When did the busing law go through?

THALER: Well, what had happened was, is that the city of Louisville had 48:00its school system and Jefferson County had its school system. I always taught in the county. Mr. Newman was the superintendent for the city. And VanHeuss (??), Mr. VanHeuss (??) was superintendent of the county. And I think what happened was, is that the city went broke--at least that's what they came and told us in the legislature, that the city went broke, and that we need to merge the city and the county together. Well, that was the big undertaking because the county, you know, was doing well to take care of its own, and, of course, it was growing, and we were building new schools, and all of this. Plus, the mere fact 49:00that the integration of the school was handed down. Course, in '58 was when I remember teaching, you know, and the children, and it was integrated but you didn't have to meet quotas and this type of stuff.

HERDMAN: It was just whatever kids lived in the district could go to that school.

THALER: That's correct, that's correct. And then because in Louisville, particularly Central, was all the black children or the negro children.

HERDMAN: You mean in--

THALER:--in the city.


THALER: But when we merged together, it made maybe Fern Creek over here. There were not very many, a few but not many, but you had to more 50:00or less equalize it. And then they started even in grade school. So we had to bus from one to the other. And the people, of course, were just totally against the children leaving, especially the little ones, you know.

HERDMAN: Would you say that was the biggest contention or issue for the people you represented during the time you represented them?

THALER: I would say that was--yes, that was one of the most, I would say one of the most emotional one for the people. The other one, of course, was the Equal Rights Amendment; that was another one that played a good portion of it.

HERDMAN: Did supporters of the ERA target you specifically because you were female, hoping you'd be sympathetic?

THALER: Well, I think--well, they used to back me up against the wall, you know, to the wall. (Herdman laughs) And said, you know, "We'll 51:00get you, you know!" (both laugh) I said, "Well, you know, I am here to represent the people in my district."

HERDMAN: Everybody right. (both laugh)

THALER: And, you know, there's men and women, you know, and some women liked it the way they were. And I ended up voting no, and the reason I ended up voting against it was because the people in this district, when I sent letters, I asked for polls, and all these things, this is what I got back. And it really made me quite sad. I had to sit down and cry a little bit when I did it because Thelma Stovall was the Lieutenant Governor under Julian Carroll. And this is when it came up, and, of course, she was very strong for it, and she was a good friend of mine.

HERDMAN: And she probably thought being female, you might be likely to vote with her, or?

THALER: Yes, yes, you know, and supporting it. To myself, I, you know, 52:00I did not vote for me; I voted for the people, and this is the way they felt. The other thing they were doing, they were trying to, wanting to open up, what they would call a constitutional convention and open the constitution of the state, I mean, of Kentucky. I wasn't sure that with all of the emotion and feeling that was going on that, that would be a good thing to do. Not at that point in time. I think more levelheaded people, if that ever happens.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And you would have been in office during the wake of the Roe v Wade decision Supreme Court, too, which probably had a little to do with the ERA timing.

THALER: Yeah, everything. Yeah, so, all of these things, you know, had to do with it. And so, I did, I voted no on the amendment. It isn't 53:00that you don't want everybody to have equal rights; you do.

HERDMAN: It's whether or not that will address it, or?

THALER: That's right. We didn't know what was doing it, and if we were to go into what you would call opening up the constitution, which another one they came up with. And I said, "I don't think that we're in a position to do this. I think it took many years when they did that, and we can amend it like we do, but to open it up, no." But all things did okay. The thing about the busing that perturbed me the most, having been a teacher, if we had somebody on that bus who was teaching these children those two hours a day that they're on a bus that would be okay. But this is a long ride. They changed buses, 54:00some of them. It's a waste of time for these children, or if they had something, they were showing them on TV, you know, something that educational. And it still bothers me today.

HERDMAN: That the travel time is a waste of time.

THALER: The travel time is a waste, in my mind, of these children's time because, you know, in a lot of time on the buses where so many problems happen. But they needed something, they needed something to occupy the time that they are on the bus. I mean this happens the whole United States, you know. In Florida, the same thing happens, so.

HERDMAN: Did you ever visit in person the predominantly African American schools?

THALER: Yes, I have. Yes, I did.

HERDMAN: What did you find the state to be? I guess what I am asking is would that bus trip, the waste of time be worth the quality of 55:00education, or was there fairly equal?

THALER: Now I hope that I don't, I hope I am not misinterpreted on this, but I think we had to lower some of the things in order to qualify meeting what you would call a general standard.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. On both sides, or?

THALER: Um-hm. On both sides.

HERDMAN: That's interesting.

THALER: yeah, I do think so. But I just, you know, it makes you feel a little sad for it. (laughs)

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Now when you said you mentioned that you would poll your constituents to find out what they wanted, in that time period how was polling done?

THALER: We mailed.

HERDMAN: Surveys?

THALER: Yes, it would be like questions and answers, letters, you know.

HERDMAN: What kind of return would you get on something like that?

THALER: Probably I would say 25 percent back, maybe 30 percent.

HERDMAN: That's pretty good.

THALER: And I thought that was pretty good at the time.

HERDMAN: Did you ever use the phone?

THALER: Oh, yeah. Well, yes, we would particularly poll the people that 56:00we felt like it affected the most, like even workers, you know, things like that.

HERDMAN: So, selective groups?

THALER: Or if something was happening to the teachers, then you could get the teachers to do that, you know. But then, overall we would send out in general, oh, maybe for precinct say 30 percent or something. This many things, you know, that many ballots would you send out, or call them about.

HERDMAN: What was the role of the media? Particularly it seemed like in Louisville that the major newspapers had a role in what was going on, and then, of course, then in Frankfort. What was your relationship with the media? How did you find that situation?


THALER: I tried to not talk to if I could keep from it only because sometimes it didn't always come out right. A couple of times, they had a pretty good shot at me. When it came about the busing, I believe that one of them they had me on a--I'm not sure if it was the Courier- Journal, I think it was--that had me on a horse, a pony.

HERDMAN: This was a picture, or TV?

THALER: Yes, in the editorial thing there.


THALER: In the editorial thing, I am riding up the steps to the Capitol. Hat with a big flower up there, you know. "Kill this," you know, "We're going to kill this," or something like that, you know. Another one, too, they also had a bill there, which said that we need to have this ethics bill, and all of the things that we were supposed to do 58:00this and to do that, and I was the only senator that voted against it.

HERDMAN: Out of thirty-eight?

THALER: Out of the thirty-eight. And the reason I did that, I told them, "When we take this oath of office, if you carry out what that oath tells you, you don't need an ethics committee. You are just putting more laws on the books." "But I guess maybe they are so weak," I told them, "that you have to have somebody spell something out for you? I feel for you. But I am not voting for this because if you uphold your oath of office you don't have to be ethics. What does your ethics bill say; you're going to do something to somebody? Well, good." They all you know.

HERDMAN: Already ought to be there right? (laughs)

THALER: "It already should have done to you anyway because you didn't obey the law!" (laughs) You know, and they, of course, told me that I 59:00should be like so and so, above all suspect, you know.

HERDMAN: Like as in voting against the ethics made you so special?

THALER: Yeah, you know, I should be cleaner than, I don't know, some character--oh, it was just a pun, you know, why would I do? Well, because you like to have all these things on the books? You want more laws, more laws?

HERDMAN: Did you think that was in line with your constituents voting against it that they you know?

THALER: Well sure, but because they expected you.

HERDMAN: Right, right. (laughs)

THALER: Don't they expect you to be that way?

HERDMAN: Yup, absolutely. When you first went in, where did you--I guess my question is, what was your initial role of the potential government? Were you idealistic and naive?

THALER: Well, I think that, first is that, of course, first is to learn the rules of the legislature.


HERDMAN: Um-hm. And you went in under Ford and then mostly served under Julian Carroll.

THALER: Yes, there was, yes. Julian Carroll was elected in '74. No wait a minute now. Was he elected in that year? Well, Wendell Ford of course was '76. Nineteen seventy-two, excuse me. Wendell Ford was there '72 and '74. Julian Carroll was there '76 and '78. I believe that's the way it is.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Yup, that looks right.

THALER: Yeah. And so, it's kind of like half-and-half. I remember asking Wendell Ford about some money to come down here to this area, you know, to help out with a lot of the facilities, you know. If he could put some money--

HERDMAN:--to parks and recreation that sort of thing?

THALER: Yeah, that's right.


THALER: And he said, "Well, I'm not going to daggle a carrot in front 61:00of you." You know, so I said, "Well, you told me my answer. Thank you very much." I don't know that I played ball like they had been used to doing.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Did you find that the negotiation was a big part of it, trade-offs for votes that sort of thing?

THALER: A lot of it was. Yes, it really was. I mean it's like one of them, he says, "I'll just hold your bill in my committee until you agree that you are going to vote for this." And I said--

HERDMAN:--what was the role of committees? What, I mean is that, could you bury a bill pretty easily?

THALER: Well, the committee--well, you could have, if you wanted to. They seemed to like to do that, the experienced ones. When I first went in, you know, well, I said, "That's fine; if you want to keep that there. You're not hurting me; you're just hurting the people." I think eventually he let it out, you know.


HERDMAN: What committees did you serve on?

THALER: I served on business, organizations, and professions. I asked the first year if I could just serve on two because I wanted to become informed, you know, on these things. And then the other one I served on was transportation and utilities.

HERDMAN: Who chaired those when you served on them?

THALER: Well, it seems to me like perhaps Murphy had one. Senator Murphy had one. And the other one probably was Bill Sullivan.


THALER: I am not positive, but I think that's true.


THALER: And then, the next year of the next session I also went on counties and special districts, too, because these things did happen. I was a co chair for the business, organizations, and professions. 63:00That would cover, you know, hairdressers, nurses, all of these different people. And I didn't want to serve on education because I felt like that, that would be a little more to the self-serving kind of a thing, and I didn't want to do that. Everybody said well, I said, "No, I prefer not to."

HERDMAN: Um-hm. I wondered about that cause your experience would be in.

THALER: Well, and it would, you know, and, of course, you had the opportunity, you know, to go into the committees and say and do whatever you want, which you could do and did do. And also, when the things are in the House. And, you know, you would talk to the House members, too, because you know it has to pass both bodies.

HERDMAN: Um-hm, sure. What did you find the major voting blocks to be in the Senate? Like did you find it to be regional, or rural versus urban, or?

THALER: Usually, if you could get the mountain people, they are the 64:00people that I'd try to buddy up with.

HERDMAN: And was there did you feel there was a mountain caucus? Did they vote together?

THALER: Yes, I did, I yes, I kind of thought there was, very much.

HERDMAN: They thought there was a Louisville caucus, too. (laughs) They said the same thing.

THALER: (laughs) Well, there was. Well, there was. Because you see, there were eight of us senators from Louisville.

HERDMAN: Yeah, that's a considerable; it's almost a fourth.

THALER: Yeah, and of course, then if you put the House to it, you know, that makes a pretty good voting bloc. Then the other thing, too, is that Jefferson County puts in a lot more to the coffers than it ever receives back. And that's all we kept saying is could we just get a portion of ours back, you know, an equal portion back. But we didn't quite get that.

HERDMAN: When you went to Frankfort, did you drive everyday from Louisville or did you stay there?

THALER: The first session, my husband and these friends of ours, we 65:00rented an apartment up there, and we hauled furniture up there. Some that, we had an interest in some apartments here, so we took some of that furniture up there. I had a lady, Thelma--not Thelma Stovall--but another lady named Thelma. So the thing about it is she would ride with me every day. The reason I did that is so that I would have someone with me, and there's never, if I need something, she might do it or she might call. I didn't pay her nothing; she just went with me. After a little bit she did kind of work a little bit in the House maybe, I think, or in the bill room, probably in the bill room. I'm 66:00not sure she was paid for that or not, but anyway. But I did it to keep down conversations.


THALER: Then Beulah Duvall (??) who was the secretary for the whole Jefferson County delegation. So she stayed. So we all three of us kind of rode together and stayed together. And then the next year, I didn't, I brought the furniture home and all. And the next one I tried to drive back and forth, and if we did stay, we stayed out at the Ramada Inn, which was on the other end of Frankfort. Because at that Holiday Inn, which was when you first go into Frankfort off of 60, that was where a lot of the people stayed, and it's where a lot of the lobbying went on, and I didn't want to be involved in that.


HERDMAN: Let's talk about that. The lobbying thing has come up recently of course with the scandal in the General Assembly. And when you served, what did you feel, what role did you feel the lobbyists played? What were their positives? What were their negatives? And who were the most important ones that you worked with?

THALER: When I began the second session, which would have been the '76 one, the Thanksgiving before that, they asked me to go down to Kentucky Dam. This is where they do, they take, when you are a freshman, you go down there and they go through, tell you like the rules, and just get you prepared for going. So they asked me if I would go down at Thanksgiving time when they had it down there, and talk to the freshman senators. Having just been a freshman and tell them some rules, you 68:00know, and things that they might need to know. And they asked me if I would talk on lobbying. So I went down and I told them I said, "Well, of course, you know, you hear the word lobby, well, a lot of times, you know, you think it was a dirty word. Well, you know, everybody is a lobbyist. Even your constituents are lobbyists, so that's not a dirty word. But yes, there are people who are trained to be lobbyists. And I found that most of them, most of them would tell you the truth." I said, "There is no way that you can know about all of these different things." And I said, "Especially like the farm agents. You don't 69:00know anything about the farm; you don't know what the farmers have to go through with in a lot of this." I represent what is and what was (laughs) the rural area of Jefferson County. This is the rural, I mean there are farms out here, I mean there are lots of farms out here.


THALER: Back then there was. And but you have to know what the Farm Bureau tells you.

HERDMAN: So you worked closely with that particular--

THALER:--so I listened to the Farm Bureau and I got information from them, and if you ever found out that they didn't tell you the truth, you simply tell them, "I think that you misled me." I don't care who they are. Even a person, you know, "You have misled me, you know, because I don't know all these things and I have to ask you all to clue me on this. Same thing was true with like the CPA. Having been on the 70:00business, organizations, and professions, you know. And they usually, most of them will tell you the truth. And you are asking for this from them only for information sake about that particular thing. Not how they would vote. I mean what would make them boost them; it's not that at all. So I do think that lobbyists do play an important part because you can't know it all. These people have been doing this and learning this.

HERDMAN: Now what about, I've heard that repeated that the lobbyists share a lot of important information. Where do you think the line ends up crossed, or does it? Were there kickbacks, gifts, were there?

THALER: Well, now if there were, there might have been, I never ever saw 71:00it. Now, of course, then all the lobbyists together would maybe put on a party for you, but that's okay.


THALER: But, you know, as far as gifts no gifts, you never accept gifts. And as far, but I know, having seen what has happened, that there are times when people do that, and people have been screened--you'll even, you see it on TV. You know, what happened here in the BOPTROT in later years after I was there. But those, you know, that's just being greedy. So, you know, that's the reason you're there. And I do think that, you know, that lobbyists do play very informative. But also, when you listen to their, you find out who's against it and you go ask 72:00them, 'What is your side of the story?' So you try to find out from both sides what is the story and then you try to make a judgment call. You might have twist something, you might have change something, you got to change the wording, which is okay.

HERDMAN: Okay. What were the most important bills that you sponsored or worked on?

THALER: Well, let me see. Well, I brought a little more money into the state. I put through the bill, the vanity bill changing the license plates. (laughs) We had never had it before. So, now, you know, you get all these vanity plates; it did bring a little more money into the state.

HERDMAN: Sure, sure.

THALER: The credit unions that they have to be insured. You see, they have to be followed just like the banks are. They had not been that 73:00before, so we brought all that into the fold.

HERDMAN: Mr. Stacey worked on the banking committee. I just heard about that, yeah.

THALER: Yeah, well, he worked, he was, yeah. But that was true for the credit unions and I worked real close with the ones here in Louisville to make sure that we get everything just right that would match because people, you know, put their money in there. You know, you got to make sure that, that not like the savings and loan, we should have done the savings and loan, you know, stuff, too.

HERDMAN: Did you continue to teach? When did you stop teaching along the way?

THALER: Well, I took a leave of absence.

HERDMAN: During your entire?

THALER: During the whole thing.

HERDMAN: So you didn't have another job?

THALER: That's right, nope, nope, nope. I didn't have a job.

HERDMAN: What, if you remember, what were you paid to serve in the legislature?

THALER: Gosh, let me think. Was it sixty dollars a day? Sixty dollars a day maybe, while it was in session, while it was in session. And then if you went to a committee meeting, you probably got your gas money. I 74:00think that's right.

HERDMAN: Did you get paid for any interim, something per month?

THALER: No, no, no, not in between, I mean.

HERDMAN: If it wasn't in session, then--

THALER:--no, not if it wasn't in session, but if you went to committee meetings--I believe you got your gas.

HERDMAN: You would submit an expense report for the day, or whatever?

THALER: Yeah, I think that's right.

HERDMAN: So you were definitely independently wealthy apart from.

THALER: Well, it took--

HERDMAN:--you couldn't live on it. (laughs) The sixty dollars a day.

THALER: No, no, no, no. Course I was--yes, I had a little money, but my husband worked, you know, and we had a nice, a nice business.

HERDMAN: Some states are moving toward paying salaries that allow state legislatures to be fulltime state legislatures. How do you feel about that? You think it's necessary?

THALER: Well, of course, everybody used to say, you know, 'Oh boy, you 75:00know, we are in trouble again, the legislature's meeting.' I'm not sure if I think it needs to meet all the time. It probably now it does meet every year now, annually.

HERDMAN: Annually, what do you think about that change?

THALER: I think that's good because there's too many things that come up. And things that you passed, which when they got into it, it wasn't what it was supposed to have been--


THALER:--that's right. It's good; you don't have to wait two years before you can do it again. Course they do have, at that time, they could call special session, which they did one time.

HERDMAN: I believe they are doing one now, or about to.

THALER: Oh, there is one right now. It's just about over right now because it had to do with the little tax fellow, I mean, the tax for the small business. Not sure what it does, what it did do.


HERDMAN: Since you didn't have to work, do you think that made a difference in how your family experienced it? Did you ever feel a tension between your role in your family and in the legislature?

THALER: No, and the reason I don't think that I felt any tension there my husband would help me read some of the bills, you know. Of course, since my mom and dad were with us, you know, the family kept going along.

HERDMAN: Did your mom and dad provide the support there? Like I am wondering why, there were so few women, why you and not Jim that ended up running? Was it because you were the one with the history?

THALER: Oh, well, no, no, no, no. My husband is an engineer and he is more like a most private person. I've just always been more outgoing a little bit than he. And yeah, I wanted to do it, you know. I thought, you know, I would like that, you know. But the reason in '77 when I 77:00decided not to run again, I was having some trouble with my back. And I think it was from carrying all those books. But I did have surgery. So I decided that most of the problems were local problems. Not that these people came to me with. Most of it was local problems. So I said, well and I did help pass also and sponsored the county judge executive bill.


THALER: I always told my county judge--well, they are not a judge. It was an executive position not--years ago maybe there was a judge, not that you were a lawyer judge, but that you were a judge like when my grandfather did it, but I still think it was the executive then.



THALER: But he had been to a business school before he went back into farming. But I would say that I thought I am not going--I am going to run for county judge executive. I know what the bills about, worked on it, I know what it's supposed to do and most things that we have are local. So I came back and decided I wasn't going to run again and I filed to run for county judge on the Democratic ticket, county judge executive. Todd Hollenbeck was the county judge at the time. And, of course, I liked to rationalize it a little bit by saying that I filed one week and the next week I went to the hospital and had back surgery before that primary election. So I really didn't get out very much. 79:00But, of course, then Todd Hollenbeck did beat me in the primary. And then, in that fall Mitch McConnell beat him.

HERDMAN: And so, was that you're last elected public office?

THALER: That was my last elected public office.

HERDMAN: Yup, did you miss it after you were out?

THALER: Yeah, it was, you know, yeah, because, you know, it was stimulating. You know, kept your mind, you know, it was stimulating. So, I just went to work then with my husband. I had the back surgery. My dad got a little sick. Then two years later, I had to have another back surgery in '79. It was probably a good thing that I didn't run for it because I mean these things are not, you know, it's not something that's not easy to get over.


HERDMAN: And it does require, campaigning requires something of you physically, and time wise, and mentally.

THALER: Physically, absolutely, and time, and not only that but also then carrying those books and those things and we didn't have a desk. We had no office; we had no desk.

HERDMAN: What about support staff? Did you have any and you made them send out letters for you?

THALER: Nothing, nothing, nothing. I either did it myself. Thelma would do this, but that was all.

HERDMAN: And this was just your friend at that point, not even an assistant?

THALER: No, no, no. No, no, no, just a friend, you know. And the same thing was true; I had friends back here that would help me, you know, getting stuff together, mail things out. But just friends, that's all.

HERDMAN: And that's changed, you know, I am sure, you are aware of, they have a staff and office now.

THALER: (laughs) Oh, yes, of course. Well, you had that little desk there. That's all you had sitting there on the floor.

HERDMAN: What was the relationship between the legislature and the executive branch? Some talk about a period where the Governor had almost ironfisted control, and then another place where the legislature kind of came into its own, or what's your thought on that?


THALER: I think the legislature it came into its own shortly after I left.


THALER: Most things had to be passed before, it went to the Governor. They would maybe hear you, you know.

HERDMAN: Would you say the Governor told you how to vote? I mean did you get a list, or how did that work?

THALER: I think that they knew better than that to tell me how to vote. (Herdman laughs) But you already knew which way.

HERDMAN: They didn't have to tell you, right. (laughs)

THALER: Because this one bill and I don't exactly remember what all it was about, but it was about oil, oil wells, and oil something like that, and I think I just displeased the Governor, first Governor on that. Then the second Governor, there was another bill that I think I displeased him with.


HERDMAN: Which bill was that?

THALER: Well, I'm not exactly sure whether he was pleased with it or not, but this was on the sewer for Jefferson County. And it came up at the very end of the session. And it was being pushed by--I probably shouldn't say these words, but they were being pushed by a group of people from the county, which had, of course, the Governor's ear. And, we, Jefferson County people, did not like it because it wasn't fair to the citizens, and the mere fact that it was drawn up that we never had the time to even read it.

HERDMAN: So, was it like private citizens that were pushing it through like business owners or like a block of the Senate?

THALER: No, it wasn't in the Senate nor in the House; it was just a group of people here in Jefferson County. But anyway, then they had a 83:00special session on it. So it passed, most of it passed. Little bit of things done to it, but it shouldn't have been passed in the first place.

HERDMAN: But you did feel like you had the opportunity to stand up and vote?

THALER: Yeah, I voted individually. I mean individually as far as my constituents.

HERDMAN: Right. Independent of the pressure as much as possible.

THALER: That's right, that's right, as much as possible. That's right. I didn't, and I wasn't doing it, I was there for these people and that's it, you know. And I think that's the way I would like to say that, that's the way people around here felt.

HERDMAN: Well, that's good. Did you find any particular trouble being in such a minority, gender-wise? There were only two, right, out of thirty-eight, women? Did it matter?

THALER: Out of thirty-eight senators. Well, not really. Of course, 84:00Georgia Davis Powers, she had been there, I believe she was there in '72 also. So, she was a little bit new at it, but she had, had a lot of other experiences. The thing about in there, as I said, the only thing is, you know, it wasn't geared a lot to women. You know, of course the men were ----------(??), talked and then you walked into the room--stop, you know. (laughs) The conversation stopped now. Whether it was something they were doing, or a joke, I have no idea but.

HERDMAN: Did they do you think they treated you equally as a legislator?

THALER: Yes, I think they tried to. The only time is whenever, once upon a time when the chairman says, "Let's let the little lady have 85:00their way."


THALER: I think that probably there were some fumes that come up above.

HERDMAN: That had to have been tough.

THALER: Yeah. (laughs) But anyway, no, actually they did. They treated me very well. I really and they treated me with respect. Just that one time, but they never did do it again; never said it again either.

HERDMAN: And you felt you got a voice -----------(??)

THALER: Yes, I did. And I was well heard and they were--yes, overall, it was wonderful experience. Very frustrating at times.

HERDMAN: What were your disappointments? That was my next question.

THALER: Well, my disappointments were that things just don't happen as quickly as you'd like for them to. And not only that, but it also is the fact is that everything takes time. And you say to yourself, 86:00this was such a great idea. I don't know what it would have been but whatever. But then, the more you thought about it, and the more that people talked about it, hey, you know, there's so many ramifications to this, that's not a good idea.

HERDMAN: The realities of it--

THALER:--the realities of it--

HERDMAN:--and what you might have to trade to make it happen--

THALER:--sure! Well, that's right--

HERDMAN:--that sort of thing.

THALER: But not only that, but then, the cost that follows. All of these things that happen.

HERDMAN: And that's probably sometimes hard to get across to constituents.

THALER: And it is.

HERDMAN: The idea is good but the actuality is. (laughs)

THALER: That's right. That's right. That is--no ideas just poor execution, you know. But sometimes, but it's hard. You do have these ideas, but it's not, it's not as easy sometimes as it appears.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. How much did national politics affect the state level? You were in office during Watergate, the end of Vietnam, Roe v Wade, that sort of stuff?

THALER: I'm not sure that it did a whole lot.

HERDMAN: That seems to be the general answer I'm getting. The state 87:00dealt with the state.

THALER: I'm not sure the state, you know, that's someplace else. (laughs) Of course, we're all part of it, but.

HERDMAN: What about the Democratic Party? Did you answer to the party after you were elected? Did they recruit you or did you?

THALER: Once upon a time they sent to me, when I was running, I said maybe, I don't know if it was $200 or $400 to help me in that campaign, and I sent it back. I said, "I think you all need it more than I do."

HERDMAN: You didn't even want support from the party at that time?

THALER: Well, not when I was in the position that I was in. You know, if you are going to do it, not that I would have taken it anyway. But it was, I think they thought I didn't have a ghost of a chance, not a ghost of a chance of winning.

HERDMAN: Did you ever have pressure from the party, national or state party to vote a certain way?

THALER: No, no.

HERDMAN: Did the Democrats tend to vote together, or because they were so overwhelmingly in power, they were fractioned off?


THALER: Most of the time you stayed together but there were a few times when you didn't. You know, because.

HERDMAN: What issues were split in the party?

THALER: Well, you know, I would just tried to think back when you said it to me.

HERDMAN: Because right before that when Nunn was Governor, he had used like different factions in the Democratic Party against each other, as a Republican sneak through the back door kind of. (laughs) So, what were those issues?

THALER: I don't think that, I don't know that they did that because I was up there, like I said, with the PTA when Nunn was the Governor. I'm not sure that we had a lot of that going on. I don't think so.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. You felt like the party was pretty unified?

THALER: Yeah, that was pretty much. The only thing it may have been, like you said, it maybe one part of the state just voting against the other part of the state, only because they thought you were doing so and so. But we just never thought we never got our fair share back, 89:00but that's understandable. And, you know, when you stop and you think about it, that was bad; you know, we needed to share.

HERDMAN: And with the population concentrated in Louisville, some of the other regions have said that they felt like Louisville had everything.

THALER: Well, because you see they just didn't have that, but the only thing is that we used to say, you should raise your own local taxes. But they didn't want to do that because there would

be ----------(??) (both laugh) So, they didn't want, you see, you could raise your own local. They had no problem raising ours here, you know, the local taxes a lot of the time. But they didn't want to do that.

HERDMAN: So looking back what do you think was your most satisfying accomplishment?

THALER: Most satisfying accomplishment. (pause) I would say just 90:00representing. I tried very hard to represent the people, and I hope that if you were to ask them, you know, they would say, 'Yes, she probably did.'

HERDMAN: And you mentioned that as one of your motivations that you perceived the person in office didn't really represent the people?

THALER: Right, right. And after I could understand why those people, who were up there for a long time, it becomes old hat to them. And I kind of think that the term limits are probably a pretty good thing to have.

HERDMAN: For that reason.

THALER: For that reason. Now you could get out and stay out for a year or two. And if you really wanted to go back and you did such a good job, I would think that people would put you back in.

HERDMAN: But the consistent you think there's a sort of? [telephone rings]

THALER: I think that they're lackadaisical, and they just, you know, 91:00slough things off a little bit more. I think the term limits are probably pretty good. I think we might even look at that national.

HERDMAN: Okay. And would you do it again and if you?

THALER: Not at this stage and age. (both laugh)

HERDMAN: Would you do it again, what you did? Did you think it was worth it?

THALER: Yes, I think it was worth it. Yes.

HERDMAN: What about advising a young person whose ----------(??)?

THALER: I think that everybody should have an opportunity to do it.

[Tape 1 ends; Tape 2 beings.]

HERDMAN: Okay, you were saying advice to young people who are interested?

THALER: Yeah, I think that any--as I have told many people since then, everybody ought to have an opportunity to do that. You ought to go just to have the experience of being there and knowing that you are making the difference. Yes, it's hard; it takes a lot out of you. Long hours, little sleep sometimes because you read those bills. And 92:00of course, a lot of the things you don't even understand a lot of the terminology. At one time, there was a group from the U of L that used to try to read and give a synopsis of the bills to us, some of them, which was good, and, of course, you are hoping that when you read it, that this is what the real meaning of it was.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Sure, I was told the lobbyists will also do the synopsis, but you have to watch it because from agendas, interpretation.

THALER: And that could well be the truth, and this is why I said but you need to talk to both sides. And you ask them, "Who would be opposed to this?" And they would tell you, if you push them enough, they would tell you, you know. So then, you go and you say, you know, "Why are you opposed to this?" Well, maybe you two should get together and work it out. And you hope that you do this and a lot of times in committee 93:00meetings--see, so many times, when you see these people on the floor, and there's no interaction they don't ask many questions this kind of stuff. Well, all these things sometimes really worked out in committee because the session itself would last a long time every day if you didn't kind of work it out ahead of time. The questions and the answers and I think that's very important. But you always have to be alert and know, you know, that you don't know many of these things, but don't be afraid to ask.

HERDMAN: If your son had shown an interest, would you have supported him in a political career?

THALER: Probably, but not today.


THALER: Not today, I don't know what's happened. First is, today 94:00everything is media. Ours was personal. We went door to door. We met these people. We had these people come to these parties, and we got to know the people, and you tried to talk with them, and you listened to them. Today it's whose got the most money, and who can put on the biggest thing on TV, the most newspaper, all of these other little things that make these people today get elected. It's so far removed from the people today. I hate to say that, but that's the way I feel. But as far as getting involved into myself today, I think I'm too much over the hill to do that. But I do wish that people would go vote. I 95:00don't care what they vote or how they vote but at least go vote. I'm not sure unless I was disable that I ever not vote. I vote in Florida now all the time because I now live in Florida.

HERDMAN: So you believe in participatory democracy as the process?

THALER: Absolutely. And you better.


THALER: If you don't you might lose it someday.

HERDMAN: Yup, all right, well that's all I have.

THALER: No, I thank you very much for coming. I hope that, I don't know if I could remember any other little things from thirty some odd years ago, but thank you very much for coming and doing this.

HERDMAN: Well, and we appreciate you telling us your story. It's very important, thank you.

THALER: Thank you.


[Tape 2, side 1 ends.]

[End of interview.]

Search This Transcript